Duxton Pub Group Acquires Little Bang Brewing Company
A fast-growing South Australian hospitality group led by Ed Peter, Brett Matthews, and Martin Palmer is the new owner of Little Bang Brewing Company.
Stepney-based independent craft brewery Little Bang Brewing Company has been acquired by the fast-growing Duxton Pubs Group.
The young hospitality consortium, led by Ed Peter, Martin Palmer, and Brett Matthews, was founded in 2020 with the purchase of The Lion Hotel in North Adelaide. Since then, it has built a portfolio of over ten pubs in South Australia, with Little Bang being the first brewery in its collection.
Little Bang founders Ryan Davidson and Filip Kemp declined to say how much their company sold for, but as part of the deal, they are now Duxton Pubs Group’s shareholders.
Fil has resigned as a head brewer but remains in consultation with the company. Ryan will stay in the company as co-CEO, a place he shares with new head brewer and co-owner Oscar Matthews, formerly Uraidla Brewery.
Ryan says Little Bang’s amalgamation into the South Australian Duxton group is “too perfect”.
“Honestly, what’s great about it is that it’s still so South Australian,” Ryan says.
“Everyone at every level is fully committed to ensuring that Little Bang remains completely independent and sets its agenda and destiny, which is wonderful.”
Little Bang Brewing was launched in November 2014 and operated out of Fil’s garage. This was a boom period for craft beer, and demand prompted the company to expand its operations to Union Street in Stepney in 2016 and again to its current location on Henry Street in 2018.
The duo’s ambition to grow has not diminished, so since they moved to Henry Street, they have kept their ears open for investment opportunities. They’ve been looking for a buyer more seriously over the past year for two reasons.
First, Filip and his wife, Katie, also in the business, had long planned to move their family to Perth by 2022. This deadline has been met now that the Kemps officially live across the border.
In addition, Fil and Ryan also felt the company was poised to grow into a middle-class Australian craft brewery. But because of the company’s changing dynamics, Ryan says they weren’t interested in “taking on a huge amount of debt with a bank.”
“We had our houses on the line and our heads on the chopping block for a very long time as a small business,” Ryan says.
“As a family business, our main thing was to work as quickly as possible to where we haven’t…and we don’t feel like ever returning to that place.”
Under Duxton’s ownership, Ryan hopes to lead Little Bang out of the “wonderful little versatile craft space, where several of the 400,500 craft bottle beers are in store” [sit]’ he says, and into the middle row, where ‘you start competing with… your Stone & Woods, your Brick Lanes, Young Henrys.’
“In South Australia, especially in recent years, we’ve started to take steps so that you might see our stuff on tap more often,” he says.
“That’s a very competitive space where margins must be cut, and it’s a real volume game.
“You have to work very professionally, with tight contracts, and have some serious capital for marketing.”
Ed said in a press release that Duxton’s purchase of the brewery would mean “the Little Bang team can grow through our reach in the hospitality industry while continuing to brew the great beers they are known for”.
“We are super excited to be working with them to grow the Little Bang brand – which will continue to be available in existing hotels and bottle shops, as well as a host of new ones, both in South Australia and nationally,” said he.
Oscar, the son of new owner Brett, joins the project after being out of the industry for a few months. He began winding down his responsibilities at Uraidla Brewery in August of last year and officially left the company in January.
As the founding brewer of Uraidla, it was “quite demanding” to build that business from the ground up, he says. But his time away has given him “enough time to think about what I want to see” in the industry.
“One of the biggest drivers of my motivation is to work with a new brand,” he says.
“Because I like working with the Uraidla brand and sticking to the style guidelines of what we did there, but this opens up a whole new opportunity for creativity.”
Ryan says there will be no noticeable changes to Little Bang’s business from a consumer perspective.
†[Duxton] can see from the store side, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. This is going well. How do we make sure it runs even better? On the production side, the goal is to grow,” says Ryan.
While Little Bang’s core range will continue to be, as will its focus on seasonal releases and specialty styles, Ryan says the company will look for ways to meet the needs of Duxton Pubs locations. And as the main brewer, Oscar will include his taste in the beer range.
“I kind of created my style of brewing, as Little Bang has, so of course, there are things I want to bring out from what I’ve learned from my brewing experiences,” Oscar says.
“I hope to be able to give some of my influence to the beers we’re constantly creating, but of course, Little Bang has a very strong following for all of its beers, so we don’t want to change something that people love drastically.”
Fil, who built Oscar’s first homebrew set, says its successor has a reputation for “high quality” [Uraidla’s] beers” and fits “perfectly” with Little Bang.
“Someone with high-quality work, background in beer, and a fresh look at the recipes and the brewing magazines and processes is always a good thing to happen,” says Fil.
Aside from the occasional deliberation, Fil will take some time to brew and head west to restore a citrus orchard. We catch him at the brewery just before he makes the trip to WA, and he says that while the acquisition is an exciting development, letting go “is going to be difficult”.
“Ryan and I built this from day one in the garage in Glynde, then built it on Union Street and gained Street. It will be difficult to get rid of it,” he says.
“But the only thing is, at least, I can walk away knowing it will be in good hands. It won’t be left to some guys running pizza shops or anything like that, and suddenly they come in and will destroy it completely.
“I am very confident that it will continue to be a great brand, and hopefully, it will only get bigger and better from now on.”
Ryan is also optimistic about what the sale means for the company.
“When we first got serious about polling people, we put together a relatively short list of candidates to approach, and Duxton was pretty high on my list,” he says.
“So many people in the craft brewing industry have their eyes on Lion Nathan or Asahi as that endgame, and look, not to shit on someone who did it, but it just feels… like a loss every time it happens.
“None of us can deny that when Pirate Life went, Little Creatures went, and Stone & Wood went, you’re kind of like, ‘Oh. Well, I guess I’ll drink somebody else’. Do you know? It feels like they’ve moved, and I don’t think it’s necessary.
“There are a few brands, like Young Henrys and so on, that have that independence and have achieved scale by investing a lot and changing their business structure a lot, and I think that’s admirable.
“Duxton, they are a force to be reckoned with. You see how they move around Adelaide and what,t they do with their pubs. When you’re close to the industry, supplying beer to many pubs and working with many pubs, you see how they work, and I’ve admired them since day one.”